We all know that shark attacks on humans are infrequent occurrences. More people die annually from dog bites, bee stings, lightning strikes and falling vending machines than are ripped apart by the horrid jaws of a great white or savagely mauled by a frenzied pack of tiger sharks. So why are these rare events featured so prominently in the universal human narrative? Perhaps because a shark attack is just about the most goddamn terrifying thing imaginable. In fact, if you can imagine a more frightening fate than that suffered by the people in these five accounts of real-life shark attacks, then you are hereby uninvited from our next birthday party.
5 Rodney Fox, Shark Fighter
Rodney Fox is one of the few people who can rightfully claimed to have fought a shark with his bare hands… and won! While taking part in a spear fishing competition, Fox was attacked by a large shark which sank its jaws into his chest and arm. Fox gouged at the animal’s eyes and then wrapped his arms around it so the mighty beast couldn’t, y’know, eat him. They surfaced together, and Fox then kicked the shark plural times until he was finally pulled from the sea by the crew of a nearby boat. Every rib on one side of his body was broken and he needed nearly 400 stitches all told, but Fox went on to live an ostensibly normal life… devoted to shark conservation!
4 The Man Eater
Most shark attacks are actually cases of mistaken identity, with sharks seeking prey more desirable than us bony humans. That’s why they usually spit us out after a chomp or two. But that wasn’t the fate of Robert Pamperin, a man who died after a shark attack off the San Diego coast in 1959. Or at least we have to assume as much, because no trace of Pamperin beyond a single swimming fin was ever found. Based off an eyewitness account of the attack, Pamperin was bitten, dragged underwater and then devoured whole.
3 Four Attacks in Two Weeks
In 1984 a fifteen day period saw four shark attacks take place along one limited stretch of the American Pacific coastline. One diver was killed, and four other individuals were bitten but survived. A great white was implicated in all four incidents, and it is quite likely all four attacks were the work of one shark. To put this two streak of shark attacks on context, fewer than 110 attacks occurred in the same stretch of waters throughout the whole 20th century.
2 The Shark Attacks Behind Jaws
Get ready to crawl under the covers: Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster film Jaws was based off of a series of real events (OK, it was based off Peter Benchley’s book, but that was inspired by history). In the summer of 1916, five separate shark attacks in the New Jersey Shore were linked to a single great white. And this shark wasn’t content to merely chomp on oceangoing swimmers; no, it even swam inland up rivers and creeks, attacking people many miles from the shore!
1 History’s Deadliest Shark Attack
The worst shark attack in recorded history came as the culmination of a series of tragic events. On July 30th, 1945, just a few short weeks before the end of WWII, a Japanese sub sank the USS Indianapolis, a ship carrying nearly a thousand American serviceman. Some 320 men were rescued four days later. Most of those lost died not in the initial attack, but from a feeding frenzy of horrific proportions. Nearly 600 men died floating in the Pacific Ocean, some from exposure or dehydration, most killed by sharks.